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Facebook’s oversight board demands clarity on rules for high-profile users


Facebook Inc updates

Facebook’s oversight board is investigating claims the social media group allowed some high-profile users to break its rules and accused the company of withholding information on the matter.

The board, a ‘Supreme Court’ style body created to oversee its content moderation processes, on Tuesday said it was looking into “the degree to which Facebook has been fully forthcoming” when responding to its previous inquiries about “cross-check”, an internal system used to review content from politicians, celebrities and journalists to ensure posts were not mistakenly removed.

According to an expose by the Wall Street Journal published last week, the system had ballooned to include millions of users, and was sometimes used to shield some users from enforcement even if they broke Facebook’s rules, a practice known as whitelisting.

In June, the company told the board that the system was only used for “a small number of decisions”, the Journal reported.

“These disclosures have drawn renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions,” the oversight board said on Tuesday. “We are also looking at how the board can further explore policy issues related to cross-check, which may lead to further recommendations in this area.”

Facebook’s oversight board was set up and funded by the social media company to make rulings on the fairness of its content moderation decisions and policies, as it faces the prospect of tougher regulation from lawmakers.

But some have complained it lacks sufficient power to compel Facebook to turn over relevant information.

The board said it had been “asking questions about cross-check for some time”, but Facebook had declined to provide much of the information it requested. It said it had “reached out to Facebook to request they provide further clarity about the information previously shared with us”, and expected a briefing in the coming days.

Facebook declined to comment.

The news follows a bruising week for Facebook, after the Journal published stories based on internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, many of which suggested the company routinely conducted internal research before burying it if the findings proved negative.

Politicians, including lawmakers on the Senate commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, are seeking hearings with tech executives to discuss some of the issues raised by the revelations.

Over the weekend, Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, hit back at the newspaper with a blog post titled “What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong”, accusing it of “mischaracterising” the company’s work and of “conferring egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees”.

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